This week the people of Kosovo and Serbia have sadly faced another set of violent incidents where those dedicated to peace have been harmed as a result of Serb mob action, and backward-looking political agendas. NATO peacekeepers were injured, as were Kosovars and Serbs dedicated to putting an end to hatred and violence. Estonia, its EU partners, and the U.S. and NATO have all called for the obvious from the Serbian and Kosovar governments: fully engage in the EU-facilitated dialog process and refrain from precipitous actions, inflamatory rhetoric, and impediments to freedom of movement. And obviously, don’t attack KFOR peacekeepers or aid workers. Pretty clear.
Amazing then that exactly the opposite occurred on September 27 and 28. A violent Serb mob attacked a NATO-led KFOR unit. A multi-ethnic group of USAID -supported community workers was similarly attacked. What is it that the attackers don’t understand? The U.S. and Estonia — the EU and NATO — stand united in not allowing a better future for Kosovars and Serbs to be denied. Their rights to a successful, Europe-integrated tomorrow are paramount. The narrow and retrograde interests of some will not be satisfied.
As current U.S. Ambassador to Estonia and former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, for me the contrast between a people seizing the future and others being allowed to descend into a dark past is particularly poignant. Estonians suffered 50 years of occupation — much harsher than anything experienced in the former Yugoslavia prior to the wars of the 1990’s. Since regaining its independence only 20 years ago, Estonia has remade itself into one of the most successful and progressive countries in Europe, in the EU, in NATO, in the world today. The long-suffering people of Serbia and Kosovo deserve a chance at similar success. We cannot let mobs and mob mentality deny them their rightful place in the 21st century among their fellow European and American friends.